History of the Lottery

Among the many debates about the lottery is whether or not it promotes addictive gambling behaviors. Other criticisms include its regressive impact on lower income groups. And, if a lottery generates more tax revenue than it costs, the value of jackpot prizes can be dramatically eroded by taxes.

Lotteries have played a significant role in American history, from early times when towns held public lotteries to raise funds for public works projects to the current era when states depend on lottery revenues to finance public programs. There are a number of different kinds of lotteries, including raffles, scratch-offs, instant games, and video lottery terminals (VLTs).

In the first recorded public lottery in the West, the city of Rome raised money to repair the city’s municipal buildings. Later, various colonies used lottery proceeds to finance town fortifications, canals, bridges, colleges, and libraries.

During the 18th century, lotteries also financed construction of wharves, bridges, and buildings at Harvard and Yale. In 1768, George Washington sponsored a lottery to fund construction of a road across the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The English government declared the final lottery in 1826. It was a fiasco. Contemporary commentators ridiculed it.

Although state lotteries have largely reverted to traditional raffles, the revival of lotteries began in New Hampshire in 1964. Ten other states followed in 1966 and 1970.

The evolution of the lottery industry has followed a common pattern in virtually every state. This includes the establishment of a state agency to run the lottery instead of a private firm. State agencies often expand the size of the lottery and add new games.